Blind and partially sighted students locked out of post 16 education

Date posted: 9th November 2022

Research, just published by Thomas Pocklington Trust, shows blind and partially sighted students locked out of post-16 education in colleges.

The report, ‘Give me access to college’, shows a fragmented and unreliable system of support for blind and partially sighted students as they leave secondary education.

Local authorities (LAs) have a statutory responsibility to provide specialist educational need and disability (SEND) support to all children and young people aged 0-25. However, the research has revealed, when a young person reaches 16 their support either drops-off or vanishes.

One LA admitted: “We do not support students in a mainstream college. They access their own support, such as from charities.”


Give Me Access To College headline findings

  • A quarter (24%) of LAs provide different post-16 provision depending on whether someone studies in a mainstream or a sixth form college
  • Almost two thirds (61%) of LAs offer statutory services to blind and partially sighted students in sixth form, but less than half (44%) have a statutory offer for mainstream colleges
  • A quarter of mainstream colleges must buy in their support, compared to 10% of sixth form colleges. Furthermore, LAs that charge for their services saw a low take up of their offer, with 20% supporting no students in the year of 2021/22.


Ramneek Ahluwalia has first-hand experience of the challenges VI students face at college. She said: “Most of my resources and materials were given to me in paper copies, which 90% of the time didn’t meet my access arrangements.”

Tara Chattaway, Head of Education at Thomas Pocklington Trust, said: “Urgent action is needed. We are calling on government, as part of the SEND review, to ensure adequate ringfenced funding to deliver statutory services to blind and partially sighted students in all post-16 education settings.

“We need to embed the Curriculum Framework for children and young people with Vision Impairment into the proposed National Standards or updated Code of Practice so that parents and blind and partially sighted children and young people know what they should expect.

“Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs) should not be used to determine whether someone is eligible to access statutory sensory impairment support.

“And blind and partially sighted young people must leave compulsory education with the skills and knowledge they need to use mainstream and assistive technology.”

Ramneek said: “I had never used assistive technology until at university. More emphasis must be put on training blind and partially sighted students to use assistive technology, especially from a young age.

“It has taken me a lot of resilience, determination and perseverance to reach where I am today. There have been days where I have considered saying enough is enough. I know many young people have lost faith in the education system to adequately support them.”

Visually impaired student, Alice Gresswell, said: “I just feel as though I was never wanted at college in the first place. As the only totally blind student, it just felt too much trouble for them. I feel as though I have been nothing but a problem to them. I now dread going to college and if I want to go on further with my education it has totally put me off.”


As well as the call to government, TPT is calling on LAs to:

  • Review their provision for blind and partially sighted young people in post-16 education, to ensure that a service is in place
  • Review their eligibility criteria and policies to ensure that EHCPs are not required to access sensory impairment services
  • Join TPT in calling on government to ensure there is adequate funding so all blind and partially sighted young people can access local authority sensory impairment services in post-16 education.


Find more about our report here.

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